This article is part of our Anatomy of a Lawsuit series, which seeks to explain the basic aspects of lawsuits in Oklahoma.
What are Motions in a Lawsuit?
A motion is simply when a party in a lawsuit asks the court to do something. A motion can be in writing or it can be made orally at a hearing or in trial.
Motion practice broadly encompasses all of the things one could argue about within the framework of the party’s lawsuit. Given the imagination of some attorneys, motion practice could be endless.
But one should remember that the object of litigation is to get to trial. A party has a cause and the end-goal is a trial, where the party can actually prove their case and ask a judge or jury to grant some form of legal relief. If the party never makes it’s way to trial, then where is the part where something actually gets done?
A Less-is-More Approach to Motion Practice in Oklahoma
Motion practice is simply the means to the end… not the end itself. Arguing over discovery responses or scheduling of dates is often a waste of time for everybody involved, including the judge. Therefore, good motion practice is a limited endeavor, utilizes the court’s time for only the most important points in a party’s case. A less-is-more approach should be favored.
Here are the most important uses of motion practice in any lawsuit in Oklahoma:
1. Motion for Summary Judgment
A few years ago, we explained the concept of summary judgment in another blog article. These motions are generally non-frivolous and worthy of the court’s time, as they go to the ultimate issue of whether there is even evidence disputed critical facts that would necessitate use of the court’s time for a trial.
2. Motions in limine
These are most often used by Defendants, but Plaintiffs can utilize them too. But they should be worthy of actually devoting pretrial time. Parties should not use motions in limine to try to object to every conceivable piece of evience the opponent may offer at trial. For one, rulings on motions in limine are advisory only and not binding until made at trial.
Not until trial when the evidence is actually offered can a judge truly make an evidentiary ruling. At that point, the parties may object, make a record, but the Court ultimately must rule on the admissibility of the evidence, at that point in the trial, when it is being offered.
Civil Defendants most often abuse the in limine motion practice when they seek to obtain a pre-trial ruling that a particular piece of evidence is not just prejudicial, but so unfairly prejudicial that it just cannot be admitted into evidence…. and then proceed to make that argument over and over again with regard to every pieced of evidence the Plaintiff intends to offer.
Motions in limine should be used for particularly novel or complex evidentiary issues, but not generally for every piece of anticipated proffered evidence.
3. Motions to Compel Discovery
There are situations when an opponent will not cooperate and produce (or provide an adequate explanation or legal justification for not producing) material in the discovery phase of a lawsuit.
Most judges despise discovery disputes. It is sad that much of litigation today revolves around such petty disputes.
In litigation, as in life, you must pick your battles. If you have a discovery battle worth picking, then do so and lay out for the court why your motion to compel is deserving of the court’s attention and critical to the administration of justice in your case.
It should go without saying that a lawyer should attempt to exhaust all possible non-judicial remedies before fling a motion to compel. The rules require it, as does common sense and decency.
Have Legal Questions? Contact an Experienced Trial Lawyer
Whether you are an attorney or a member of the general public, Travis Charles Smith welcomes your questions. You may reach him at (405) 701-6016 or by sending an email using this contact page.